RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia’s population is increasing only half as fast as it was at the start of the decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
From 2010 to 2011, the commonwealth’s population grew by more than 1 percent. But data released Thursday showed that the state’s population increased only about 0.5 percent between mid-2015 and mid-2016.
Nationwide, the U.S. population rose by 0.7 percent last year. Among the 50 states, Virginia ranked in the middle in its one-year growth rate, sandwiched between Alaska and Oklahoma.
Utah had the biggest increase in population last year – 2 percent. Nevada, Idaho, Florida and Washington were fractions of a percentage point behind.
Eight states lost population, with West Virginia losing the most (0.5 percent).
Since the start of the decade, Virginia’s statewide population has grown about 5 percent, similar to states such as California and Hawaii. Washington, D.C., with a 13 percent increase, grew faster than any state during those six years. Then came North Dakota (just under 13 percent) and Texas (almost 11 percent).
Virginia is home to some of the fastest-growing localities, as well as some with the steepest declines in population.
New Kent and Loudoun counties were among the fastest growing localities in the United States from 2015 to 2016. Jumping more than 700 people, New Kent’s population rose 3.5 percent; that ranked 36th among the nation’s 3,142 counties.
From 2015 to 2016, Loudoun County’s population grew by 3 percent. Although that is slower than in the past, Loudoun has grown almost 24 percent since 2010. Of the 211 counties with at least 300,000 residents, Loudoun County is the third fast-growing locality this decade (behind Fort Bend and Williamson counties in Texas).
Among U.S. counties with more 300,000 residents, Prince William County was No. 17 in population growth since 2010. Its population has increased more than a 13 percent growth since the beginning of the decade.
In 2016, for the first time, Prince William County (population 455,210) surpassed Virginia Beach (population 452,602) as Virginia’s second most populous locality. Fairfax County remains No. 1 with more than 1.1 million residents. Fairfax County has grown 5.3 percent since 2010 but registered just a tiny increase last year.
While many Virginia localities are growing, 63 have seen their population decline this decade. Emporia, for example, has lost 10.5 percent of its population since 2010, including 3.5 percent in the past year.
About 1,700 counties across the U.S. have seen a decline in population since the start of the decade. Only 27 of them have had a bigger decrease than Emporia.
Buchanan County has also experienced a significant decline since 2010, losing 8 percent of its population. It was among the 100 counties where, percentage-wise, population has dropped the most this decade.
Tazewell County, also in the western part of the state, lost more than 2,900 residents – about 6.5 percent of its population – since 2010.
Richmond – both the city and the metro area – continued to show steady growth. (The Census Bureau treats Virginia’s “independent cities” as if they were counties and included them in the data release.)
The city of Richmond grew 1.6 percent in the past year and 9.3 percent since 2010. Its population stands at 223,170 – the 10th most populous locality in Virginia.
The Richmond metro area – which consists of the city of Richmond, the counties of Henrico and Chesterfield, and 14 other localities, including New Kent County – now has a population of 1,281,708. It remains the 45th largest metropolitan area in the U.S.
The Richmond area’s population grew 0.9 percent last year and 6.1 percent since 2010.
By Haley Winn with Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.